The Montana Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) recently elected Rhonda Fitzgerald of Whitefish as the Chair of the Council. In addition, Bozeman’s Cyndy Andrus was elected to serve in the vice-chair position. The chair and vice-chair positions are elected by the full council to serve one-year terms. TAC members are appointed to serve by the Governor.

Rhonda Fitzgerald has worked in the tourism industry in Whitefish since 1977 and has owned and operated the Garden Wall Inn, an award-winning small inn in downtown Whitefish since 1987. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau and is the vice-chair of Whitefish’s downtown business association – the Heart of Whitefish, a board member of the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council, and a member of the FVCC Culinary Arts Advisory Committee. In 2002-2004 she served on the City-appointed “Jobs for Whitefish Taskforce.” In 2003, the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce awarded her Community Person of the Year and in 2009 she was honored by Montana’s tourism industry naming her Montana Tourism Person of the Year. She has served on the Montana TAC since 2005.

Vice-chair Cyndy Andrus is a self-employed tourism consultant working with rural Montana communities to implement and promote the Montana tourism brand and development of their tourism product. She is the former director of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), where she promoted Bozeman as a destination for tourism, film and meetings and conventions. She has been employed in the tourism industry for over 25 years.

Andrus is a Bozeman City Commissioner, a member of the Region 3 Fish Wildlife and Parks Citizen Advisory Council, served on the PPL Montana Community Fund Board, is past president of Yellowstone Country Tourism region, cofounded the Bozeman Community Cultural Council, and is a graduate of the 2007 class of Leadership Montana. She was appointed to the Montana Arts Council in 2005 by Governor Martz and was reappointed by Governor Schweitzer for a second term. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Montana Arts Council.

The TAC advises the Department of Commerce’s Montana Office of Tourism on tourism promotion and informs the Governor on matters that relate to travel and tourism in Montana. The TAC approves the marketing plans and the distribution of accommodation tax funds to the regional nonprofit tourism corporations and convention and visitors bureaus statewide.

The TAC currently has 13 members representing various regions, tourism industries and tribal entities throughout the state. TAC appointees serve at the pleasure of the Governor for staggered 3-year terms and can be re-appointed for subsequent terms at the Governor’s discretion.

Tourism and recreation is one of Montana’s leading industries. In 2010, 10.5 million people visited Montana spending $2.5 billion during their stay. Every dollar the MTOT invests in tourism promotion yields $104 in visitor spending in Montana.

According to data provided by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) at the University of Montana, 67 percent of first-time visitors travel to Montana because of Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. 86 percent of visitors return to Montana and are attracted to less-traveled areas visiting small towns, historic sites and cultural events, seeking outdoor recreation, scenic drive and wildlife watching opportunities.

Over 28,000 jobs are supported by nonresident travel, resulting in over $785 million in total personal income for Montana residents.